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Appalachian Themed Activities for Persons with Dementia


Persons with dementia (pwd), like all persons, have individual preferences regarding which activities they find to be engaging (Kolanowski, Buettner, Costa, & Litaker, 2001). However, given the pattern of cognitive decline, pwd often enjoy reminiscing about their childhood and culturally-meaningful activities. Due to the social-distancing requirements resulting from COVID-19, families and long-term care facilities have faced new challenges to providing meaningful and engaging social interactions for pwd. We have developed Appalachian-inspired activities that can be used by individuals, in groups, in face-to-face interactions and virtually. In this presentation, we demonstrate the use of these materials.

Word association with Appalachian items like biscuits and gravy or navy beans and Don Knotts


Based on Montessori principles, we developed sets of Appalachian-themed BINGO and matching activities. In an online survey of 160 adults (M age = 45; range 24-76), we assessed the degree to which the content is viewed as “Appalachian.” We have pilot-tested the virtual BINGO among adults without dementia and will begin pilot work with pwd in this fall.

Survey example of what is considered Appalachian


Based on the survey, we identified sets of musicians, other famous people, and foods which were identified as being especially Appalachian among a general population. We also identified sets which were identified as Appalachian by persons who had spent time in, grew up in, or currently lived in Appalachia. Ongoing and anticipated field work will examine whether the Appalachian materials result in higher attention and positive affect than non-Appalachian materials.


Developing and disseminating culturally-relevant materials which families can use in person or via technology-mediated visits are an important public health service for West Virginia. Our work has the potential to improve quality of life for pwd and their care partners by providing meaningful materials to facilitate positive social interactions

The ratings from our online survey will inform us on the stimuli that will be used in a larger study on the efficacy of our materials in comparison to traditional Montessori-type activities. We plan to look at engagement, attention, and affect from our participants. Measures of attention and positive affect will be obtained using the Greater Cincinnati WellBeing Tool (Rentz, 2002).


  • Kolanowski, A. M., Buettner, L., Costa Jr, P. T., & Litaker, M. S. (2001). Capturing interests: Therapeutic recreation activities or persons with dementia. Therapeutic Recreation Journal,5(3), 220. 
  • Rentz, C. A. (2002). Memories in the Making©: Outcome-based evaluation of an art program for individuals with dementing illnesses. American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease & Other Dementias®, 17(3),175- 181.